The Agriculture Water Quality Alliance (AWQA) is proud to announce winners of the first annual AWQA Conservation Awards:
Vineyard Category: Bill Hammond of Jackson Family Wines, Soledad
Rangeland: Dean Bettcher and Joe Gonzales of Calero Ranch, San Jose
Nurseries: Ron Terry of El Modeno Gardens, Hollister
Orchards: George Bonacich of Bonacich Orchards, Gilroy
Berries: Dutra Farms, Watsonville
Other Field Crops: John and Eda Muller of Daylight Farms, Half Moon Bay
The Agriculture Water Quality Alliance, which works to reduce agricultural runoff into the Monterey Bay Sanctuary and its watersheds, collected nominations from the six-county region that drains into the Sanctuary. The award winners were selected in six crop categories based on their innovation, community leadership, and exceptional strides in farm water quality protection. The award winners were recently honored at a special wine tasting event where they also received congressional recognition from The Honorable Sam Farr, 17th District.
Bill Hammond is the Director of Vineyard Operations in Monterey County for Jackson Family Wines. He received the award in the Vineyard category for being instrumental in promoting innovative on-farm conservation practices such as cover crops and critical area plantings in both vineyard and non-crop areas. Jackson Family Wines practices innovative viticulture production by using the latest tools and implements that have enabled them to adopt narrow row spacing in their fields. They use cover crops and grass their roadways to prevent erosion. Other conservation practices they employ include leaf petiole analysis to determine proper fertilizer rates and neutron probe readings to determine soil moisture content for better irrigation. Jackson Family Wines was also recognized for prioritizing conservation partnerships with the Resource Conservation District and regulatory agencies.
The Rangeland category award went to Joe Gonzales and Dean Bettcher, owner and manager (respectively) of Calero ranch. Their ranch operations include: riding stables, growing hay, alfalfa, and raising cattle. Dean took the Irrigated Ag Short Course in 2005. After they worked with the Farm Bureau and developed a conservation plan with the NRCS, he and Joe made major improvements to their operations. They monitored runoff from the ranch to identify areas with water quality concerns. They installed berms to slow and filter runoff. They clean stalls daily and built a covered manure storage area. By relocating grazing pastures, they increased the grassed buffer to filter animal manure. Damming the drainage ditch allows them to reuse the water for irrigation all summer. They continue to monitor in order to manage adaptively.
Ron Terry, Branch Manager of El Modeno Gardens in San Benito County, received the Nurseries category award for his exceptional strides to protect Pacheco Creek. Although he didn’t need to take the Water Quality Short Course because he already had a Waste Discharge Permit allowing him to discharge thousands of gallons to Pacheco Creek each day, Ron was one of the first to sign up for a short course. Once he learned about the impact of the discharge, he decided to be proactive to reduce the impact of his nursery on Pacheco Creek. He installed detention areas and redirected runoff for reuse throughout the nursery. Recycled water is used for dust control, which reduces mite infestations and the need for pesticides. Ron uses drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers to conserve water. As a result of his work, the nursery no longer discharges to the creek. Ron is active in watershed working groups and hosts field trips and tailgate seminars on his property. By sharing his successes with other growers, Ron has become an active advocate for water quality protection.
George Bonacich, AWQA conservation award winner in the Orchards category, owns and manages an orchard in San Benito County. He attended the first Irrigation Short Course and has been a guest speaker at many others, promoting the importance of water quality protection. One of the first growers to do nutrient budgeting, George learned that he had sufficient nutrients in his well water to stop using nitrogen fertilizer. By not using fertilizer, he has saved money, improved water quality, and his apricots have done just as well! He also uses micro-sprinklers to eliminate irrigation runoff. George has shared his success story with other growers, and is an active member of the Pacheco Watershed working group.
Dutra Farms in Watsonville received the AWQA 2007 Conservation Award for the Berries category. Dutra Farms produces caneberries on 650 acres in the Lower Pajaro River and Elkhorn Slough watersheds. They use an innovative cover cropping technique for raspberries and blackberries that provides 100% of the crops’ nitrogen requirements. Dutra Farms uses hedgerows to attract beneficial insects and avoid the use of synthetic chemicals. The farm also hosts workshops to share conservation techniques with competitors. Through the extensive use of cover cropping, Dutra Farms has helped to reduce soil erosion, decrease pesticide concentrations in runoff, bank soil nitrate, and increase soil carbon, all while running a profitable business.
The award for the Other Field Crops category went to John and Eda Muller. The Mullers own and operate Daylight Farms and Farmer John Pumpkins in Half Moon Bay. The farm produces over 50 varieties of pumpkins and gourds, and a variety of herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Public education is important to the Mullers, and they have opened up their farm so that children and their families can experience how vegetables grow. The Mullers have been active participants in every conservation program available, from water quality short courses, to irrigation and nutrient management assessments, to adoption of cover crop and green manure practices. Through their participation in the Pilarcitos Watershed Working Group and extensive community service, the Mullers are leaders in linking community and conservation through the family farm.
The Agriculture Water Quality Alliance would like to thank these growers for demonstrating exceptional environmental stewardship and for taking strong leadership roles in promoting the adoption of conservation practices in the watersheds that drain to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. For more information contact Lisa Lurie at 831-647-4219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.